The Jazz Universe Inside My Head

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Mike Raitzyk Quartet at The Haven

Mike Raitzyk Quartet
Friday February 3, 2006
The Haven Lounge, Baltimore

Back in the summer of 2003 my boss at the time gave me a copy of a City Paper article that raved about this jazz club in Baltimore called The Haven. Its full name is the New Haven Lounge but as she told me, “Don’t call it that, just call it the Haven, and go if you like jazz.” Agreeing to her, I shook my head and told her I was going to check it out for sure. I hung the article up as a reminder; that was well over two years ago and I just recently made it in. It’s my new joint.
The Haven is quite a unique spot. Placed in a run-down strip mall at the intersection of Northern Parkway and Havenwood Avenue (that makes sense), you’d never know that such a gem could exist. But it does and it’s been there for nearly four decades doing the same thing: Delivering top-notch music and an atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re in another time, maybe a jazz scene from, say, the 40s or 50s with a touch of 70s funk. I could go on and on about it but if you love jazz just do as my old boss told me to do.
When I arrived on the spot the band was on set break (I had to work late). Soft sounds of a sax played over the light chatter; it was mellow, positively. I grabbed a Bombay and tonic and took a seat in front of the stage. I could see that the quartet was guitar, bass, sax and drums. I’d never heard of Mike Raitzyk and didn’t really know what to expect.
Minutes later the band took the stage, well the floor because there isn’t really a stage. Without hesitation the jumped right into John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and things got hot in an instant. I’ve been to a lot of clubs where maybe the music was good but the crowd wasn’t into it or vice versa. Not the Haven; at least not this night. There was a guy standing behind the drummer saying, “Work it now. Come on now, work it.” I knew right then I was where I was supposed to be as far as personal locality.
The quartet ran through some Charles Mingus, more Coltrane, particularly one of my favorites “Naima,” and some stuff that I didn’t recognize as well. I didn’t get the rest of the band member’s names (I should have) but they were a tight unit, playing off each other with what looked like ease. Raitzyk was a master on the guitar. It turns out that he has been on the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. scene for the last 15 years, playing in everything from quartets to orchestras. He’s played with a mix of people: Pepper Adams, Mel Torme, Clifford Jordan, and Bill Hardman to name a few.
Listening to the sweet sounds took me away from any sense of time and all of a sudden it was last call. I snagged another drink concoction and listened to the last tune. Then I was gone, out into the parking lot, with the music with me every step. I’ll be back to the Haven.

Oh, and What I’ve Been Listening To This Week:

John Scofield Live at the Mercury Lounge (download it at this page)
Modern Jazz Quartet European Concert
Yusef Lateef Psychicemotus
William Parker Violin Trio Scrapbook
Ahmad Jamal The Awakening


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